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Man Freed After 38 Years Behind Bars After Judge Rules He Didn’t Get Fair Trial

David Bryant Was Convicted Of Raping And Murdering A Bronx 8-Year-Old
A judge freed David Bryant after he spent 38 years in prison for rape and murder, believing he didn't get a fair trial. (Photo: CBS 2)

A judge freed David Bryant after he spent 38 years in prison for rape and murder, believing he didn’t get a fair trial. (Photo: CBS 2)

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PRINCETON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Nearly four decades after the monstrous murder of a little girl, the man charged and convicted in the case has been released.

As CBS 2’s Steve Langford reported Friday, the man, who was in custody since he was 18 years old, said he doesn’t have time now to be bitter.

David Bryant had been locked up since Gerald Ford was president for the rape and murder of 8-year-old Karen Smith in a Bronx apartment building back in 1975.

“You spend day in and day out for 38 years, say to yourself if, not when, if I’m ever released what do I do? What do I do?” Bryant said.

A bewildered Bryant was released Thursday by a Bronx judge, who ruled the man’s defense attorney back in the 1970s did such a bad job, Bryant didn’t get a fair trial.

“When they bury me they better take this sweatshirt and these shirts with me because this is the moment that you live for,” said Bryant, referring to his sweatshirt, which had the words “I didn’t do it” on the front.

Bryant’s release was the result of years of legal work by Centurion Ministries in Princeton, N.J., which will assist his transition to freedom.

“We’re fierce protectors of them and their welfare,” Centurion’s Kate Germond said.

After Bryant was arrested as a teenager and then convicted, his family, even his parents, he said, had doubts about his innocence.

“I want to really, really just sit down in some church somewhere and say to my mother and father this is something I didn’t do,” an emotional Bryant said.

In his first 24 hours of freedom, Bryant was confronting a whole new world that didn’t exist when he first went to prison in the ‘70s — for example, the iPhone.

“You could see this stuff today and you know what you remember you remember picking up the telephone and [dialing rotary]” Bryant said.

Bryant’s release does not mean he’s been cleared, but he is adamant about his innocence.

“This is something I know, I know I never did do, I never did do,” Bryant said.

So now, suddenly, after 38 years behind bars, Bryant finds himself in an Ivy League town, where he may now begin his life once again.

Bryant may still face another trial on the rape and murder charges. The Bronx District Attorney’s Office said it will review the trial record before a decision to appeal is made. His lawyer said DNA from the crime scene did not match Bryant’s.

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